What CDS really built during Covid-19: momentum, collaboration and trust
How rapid delivery in response to the current crisis helped Croydon council's digital team to up its game.
The last few weeks have been somewhat of a rollercoaster. From juggling full-on, round-the-clock working days with home-schooling – to figuring out how to switch off, take a break and recharge. From the sadness of supporting close friends who have lost loved ones – to being thankful for those who recovered and are still with us. From missing going out and into the office to see friends and colleagues – to enjoying the time I’ve been able to give my home and family and appreciating the little things.
Amongst all that, it’s also been the proudest 6 weeks of my working life. A period where I’ve felt honoured and humbled to be doing a job where I know I’m helping others every day. Proud to see and feel the difference we’ve been making as a team. And to be doing this for the community I live in has made it all the more poignant.
Like all government technology teams, the Croydon Digital Service (CDS) has been central to enabling Croydon’s response to COVID-19 – from enabling the council’s entire workforce to function remotely, through to rapidly building brand new online services to get vital help to residents and businesses. I couldn’t be prouder of the team. Everyone has pulled together and got stuck in. It’s involved everyone coming well out of their comfort zones at times, and equally just getting on and doing what they do best so others can refocus elsewhere.
Mercifully, the groundwork we’ve put in in recent years mean we were in a good position to respond to the challenge. Having already rolled out Windows10, O365 and laptops to all staff to enable remote working a few years ago, we had a solid base to build from, which meant we could focus attention on the additional stuff (like video chat, communication and collaboration software) and on making an impact for the people of Croydon. All the recent work that’s gone into developing CDS’s culture and capability – embedding agile practices, filling new roles and procuring new technology – all came together, enabling us to rapidly respond to urgent new needs on multiple fronts, and deliver for our colleagues, residents, businesses and partners.
The work the team has done has been plentiful and varied. I started to pull together a list of things we’ve delivered in the last few weeks, but stopped counting at about 50. The list (how much I got to anyway) is here:
That’s actually what my blog post was going to be about – the work delivered. But not only is there too much to list in a blog post, it’s also not the most interesting thing that’s been going on here. It’s the way in which we worked with each other, our colleagues and partners which has built a lasting legacy… one of momentum, collaboration and trust. The culture we’ve been working towards suddenly came to life and produced the kind of results only this way of working can bring. And there was a real injection of the team spirit and camaraderie. Not just in getting the work done, but in looking out for each other, in being understanding and supportive, and sometimes just having some plain silly fun together.
Sometimes working in a technology team can feel like a thankless task, where people only come to you with problems and seldom stop to thank you for solving them. But not this time. I’ve had many messages complimenting the team but I think this one from Richard Gray in our Corporate Risk Office sums it up quite nicely:
“What CDS has pulled out of the bag, in such a short space of time and in so many things, is nothing short of a miracle. You have enabled us (the organisation) to do things we never thought possible and the support has been phenomenal!”
It’s this kind of change – with so many of our colleagues suddenly experiencing what technology and a modern digital team can make possible, and the higher trust they now have in us – that makes me positive about what’s to come. As we turn our attention to what we’ve learnt during this period, and how the organisation will be a different place going forward, it’s the strengthened collaboration and trusting relationships both within the organisation and with our external partners that will play a central part in what we do next.